What a nightmare

AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - November 2, 2020 - 12:00am

By the time this column comes out, Super Typhoon Rolly with the international name Goni would have had already hit us, unless it decided to take another path.

According to Weather Manila (as of Saturday, noon), the typhoon is currently at its peak with 215 kph winds (265 kph gusts) at 550 km east of Virac. Though the environment along its path is generally favorable, the strong ridge to the north will push the typhoon southward, hence the ESE-ward movement from today. This interaction with the ridge will result in a gradual weakening trend. The typhoon is expected to have 145-160 kph max winds on its landfall in Luzon.

According to PAGASA (as of Saturday noon), Typhoon Rolly maintains its strength as it moves west-southwestward towards Bicol region. It is likely to remain a typhoon category (185-205 km/h) by the time it grazes the Bicol Region and makes a landfall over Quezon. During its traverse over Luzon, Rolly is forecast to weaken considerably and emerge as a severe tropical storm or minimal typhoon over the West Philippine Sea.

Last week, Typhoon Quinta hit us. According to the latest report of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Quinta left 16 people dead and damage to agriculture and infrastructure has risen to more than P700 million. Regions badly hit were Ilocos, Central Luzon, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), Bicol and Western Visayas.

In Alfonso, Cavite many trees and electric posts fell. In Tagaytay, there was zero visibility, making it difficult for travelers to drive along the ridge. To make things worse, a 4.8 earthquake shook the grounds of Batangas and some parts of Cavite last Thursday. There was a strong aftershock as well. People in Tagaytay panicked, since Taal is the nearest volcano from the epicenter. Remember the Taal eruption in January 2020? Then sometime in August the Taal Volcano Network recorded five volcanic earthquakes. Weak steaming or fumarolic activity rising 20 meters high before drifting south-southwest was observed from the vents of the main crater. During this time Alert Level 1 was maintained over Taal Volcano, which means that sudden steam-driven or phreatic explosions, volcanic earthquakes, minor ashfall and lethal accumulations or expulsions of volcanic gas can occur and threaten areas within the Taal Volcano island.

Just this weekend, the Taal Volcano Network recorded nine volcanic earthquakes. Weak steam-laden plumes from fumarolic activity at the vents of the main crater rose 20 meters high before drifting southwest. Ground deformation parameters based on continuous GPS monitoring from March 29, 2020 to the present indicate a slow and slight inflation of the northwestern sector of Taal Caldera, which was also recorded by electronic tilt on northwest Volcano Island starting the second week of July 2020.

Alert Level 1 (Abnormal) is maintained over Taal Volcano. DOST-Phivolcs has recommended that entry into TVI, Taal’s Permanent Danger Zone or PDZ, especially the vicinities of the main crater and the Daang Kastila fissure, must be strictly prohibited. Local government units have been advised to continuously assess previously evacuated barangays around Taal Lake for damages and road accessibilities and to strengthen preparedness, contingency and communication measures in case of renewed unrest. People are also advised to observe precautions due to ground displacement across fissures, possible ashfall and minor earthquakes.

Let us pray that Typhoon Rolly weakens and spares us from more disasters amidst this pandemic. At this point, I am confident, however, that our local government units, the Coast Guard and the NDRRMC know what to do in case floods, landslides or even lahar flows occur.

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Traveling along the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), Cavite Expressway (CAVITEX) and the Cavite-Laguna Expressway (CALAX) was such a nightmare. I wonder how it was in the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), C5 Link, Skyway, NAIAX, MCX, Startoll, TPLEX and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX).

The intention of improving our highways is a noble deed. It is no joke and very expensive. But it does not end there. Everything must be done in an orderly manner to achieve no-stress travel for everyone. One such improvement is the issuance of the RFID. There should be a systematic and efficient way of requiring motorists to install the tollway IDs or hands-free toll cards. Otherwise, it will create chaos more than convenience to the travelers.

What is worse is that even if you already have an RFID, you are still stuck in traffic waiting for the cars who need to pay cash, move. What is supposed to be a faster route has become a much longer and agonizing trip. I hope this problem is resolved right away. There should be traffic patrol officers or barriers separating the lanes for cars with RFID from those without. This would surely help. They should also intensify the information campaign to have RFIDs installed before traveling out of the city. Installation must not take place on tollways. They should have RFID kiosks in parking lots of the big malls. Just a suggestion!

Can you imagine how it feels to go through this crazy mess? After having a restful vacation, you suddenly get stressed out because of the horrendous traffic in the expressways. The two-hour trip is now a 4- to 5-hour ordeal. I think we should really think, think, think before we decide to go out these days.

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Covid-19 Update: France, Spain, Italy and Britain are among the European countries that reported spikes in new COVID-19 cases since April and May, respectively. French President Emmanuel Macron said the country would enact a second nationwide lockdown that would hopefully slow down the spread of the coronavirus. He also said that much of Europe is facing a similar situation, “overwhelmed by a second wave that we now know will probably be harder and more deadly than the first.” It does look like a “dark winter” for these European countries, from Belgium to Italy to the Czech Republic.

Starting this week, Germany will close its restaurants, bars, theaters, gyms, nail salons and spas, and professional sports teams will play to empty stadiums. But Chancellor Merkel said that supermarkets, shops, schools and day-care centers will remain open. If you recall, Ms. Merkel was laughed at when she predicted last month that if people will not change their behavior, Germany will be facing 19,000 infections per day by Christmas.

A report to the WHO as of Oct. 30, 2020 showed 44,888,869 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,178,475 deaths worldwide. A breakdown by region showed: Americas – 10,151,141 confirmed cases; Europe – 10,520,014; Southeast Asia – 9,138,338; Eastern Mediterranean – 3,038,199; Africa – 1,313,897 and Western Pacific – 726,539 confirmed cases.

In Southeast Asia: Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar and Malaysia are the top five countries with the highest number of cases. The Philippines as of last weekend has more 379,000 confirmed cases with 7,185 deaths.

Despite the continuous increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, the country has eased distancing rules in public transport and allowed more businesses to operate at full capacity. According to Palace spokesperson Harry Roque, buses and trains are now allowed to sit passengers one-seat apart, even if it is less than the one-meter distance the government requires. Trains can also operate at half capacity, and commuters may eventually be allowed to sit beside each other for as long as there is a barrier. He also said that the nation is considering shorter curfew hours to allow more work shifts.

COVID-19, typhoons, earthquakes, horrific traffic… how can one keep calm amidst these nightmares? Keep safe everyone!

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